Hardware vs. Software – Endurance vs. Bang for the Buck

Source: http://hiphopmakers.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/hardwarevssoftware.jpg

Some time ago I had some money to spend and was thinking about buying a new master keyboard. Starting my “career” on the piano let me still longing for weighted keys, not to mention big/normal ones instead of the mini-size. Additionally I was looking for remote control features useful in combination with Ableton Live like transportation, triggering and maybe some drum pads, too.
You can easily spend 1000 € or more on such a keyboard which I was not willing to pay. I found one for 444 € at the musicstore in Cologne which felt good to play and which had a reasonable price. But …

At that moment I started thinking about the upgrade from Live to Live Suite, with all the included instruments, sounds, effects, possibilities. I started to think about how many iPad apps I could afford for this amount of money. Then I got the info from the seller that the keyboard was not in stock and I had to wait for one week before it could be delivered. Mmm…

Sorry hardware, that round went to your software cousin.

I went home and downloaded Ableton Suite for 250 € on the same day, with some unpredictable results but nevertheless a BIG bank for the buck. At this point I thought that I’m through with hardware. I still own some old stuff like my Korg Poly 800 or my ESI 32 Sampler which cost a big deal of money (at least from my point of view when I did the purchase) and are dust-catchers now and nostalgica.

Some weeks went by and still without a decent master keyboard, one night I resurrected my old GEM S2 Turbo back from its dustshelf grave. Yep, smelled funny but was still good. I switched it on, played some sounds, remembered which button to press when and … it felt really good even if the sounds were a little dowdy for my 21century ears. It was great! It brought back some of the gigs I played with it and all the hours of creating new songs and sounds, trying to figure out, how this damn machine works: Nostalgica at its finest 🙂

Now, again I compared with the software side and recalled how proud I was buying my first Cubase version, my first VST Plugin which was the LM4 by Steinberg. I even bought the later upgrade to MarkII and managed to use them in a few songs. Today? Not only outdated but hard to get up and running at all. I switched from Cubase to Ableton Live, LM4 is only usable if you’re willing to ignore a lot of error messages and invest some hours in installation and – the biggest argument – “why bother?”. Live already includes some good sounding drum machines and you could buy tools like Addictive Drums now for small money with better sound and improved handling.

So, sorry software. From the point of view of hours invested in tools, you’re cousin hardware won this round.

So, my conclusion for today: Invest wisely and know your requirements. Is it time or money you wish to save in the long run? In the end someone should say “you have chosen wisely”.

Comments welcome.



2 thoughts on “Hardware vs. Software – Endurance vs. Bang for the Buck

  1. David Goldflies says:

    I have recently had a similar experience with an old ys-200 Yamaha keyboard. I Just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it along with some tx81zs. And yup, the keyboard smelled musty. But in Ableton 9 I have been able to reinvent those instruments.
    It isn’t a question of one or the other. The goal is to make music. And tools influence the outcome. Midi seems to be the glue that allows my old gear to be creative playgrounds in today’s software.

    It’s a great time to make and perform music!

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